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Feminist Formal!

10:18 AM:  I’m just waking up this morning after attending the National Council of Women’s Organizations Ball last night.  It was truly lovely and in an almost shocking move, I felt like I might have been on the overly dressy side.  I always forget that there’s a whole category of clothing that I am now calling feminist formal.  Feminist formal basically means you can dress up, but it doesn’t have to involve a dress or heels, and everyone still looks great.  This meant it was easy to make the transition to my mocassins after I couldn’t handle the heels anymore!  I should also note this is one of the things I love about the feminists – it’s easy to dress so you feel comfortable!

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(Above: Me in my dress!)

The event looked amazing and it was at the President James Monroe Mansion which is an awesome old house over near GW.  Apparently, Monroe lived there while he was President after the White House was burned during the War of 1812.  Now, the building is owned by an arts club, which was the first club in DC to admit women.  So, if you walk around the place feels like this awesome old house, that happens to have art for sale on the walls.  They also set up a VIP tent last night which looked amazing and was VERY well heated which was key since it was freezing.

dsc00371(Above: My friend Angela and I in the VIP tent.  Isn’t this tent insane?!?!)

I spent most of the night wandering around and catching up with some of the people I see at events sometimes.  It was fun to get the opportunity to just chat and have interesting conversations with some other feminists.  I feel like I see a lot of these amazing women on a regular basis, but having time to just talk is rare, so that was really fun.  Overall, the party was more low key than most balls (more lik\e a big cocktail party), so it wasn’t quite what I expected, but it was still a lot of fun!

Now its time to relax before the big concert (which my boss got me tickets for!).

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Saturday: Before the Ball

Not too much excitement until the ball tonight, but in the spirit of the running diary, I’ll keep updating.

11:39 AM:  I just received this email from my dad about tomorrow’s concert.  Here it is in it’s entirity.  My dad is known for great emails, by the way.

“I just heard that the Jonas Brothers and Miley Cyrus are going to perform at the concert tomorrow. It’s worth considering, whether or not, it is worth enduring this pain in order to see Bruce, U2 and JT.”

I should note that by JT he means James Taylor, not Justin Timberlake.  I don’t know my dad’s feelings on Justin!

I still plan on braving the cold, almost entirely because Bruce was awesome when I saw him over the summer.  I hope he plays “American Land.”

And with that, I’m going back to my homework which is about how the religious right ruined everything.  Thank god they are out of there in 3 days!

12:01 PM: Another note from Dad: “VIP tickets would be a good thing!! Bring ear plugs so that you don’t have to hear the teeny bopper performers. By the way if for some reason Britney Spears shows up I expect you guys to leave immediately!”

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STOP EVERYTHING IT’S WHITE HOUSE TIME

8:28 PM:  I get a call on my phone from the Presidential Inaugural Committee (PIC for short and yes, I do know their number!).  I answer it expecting information about my volunteer gig (which I still know nothing  about).  I answer and they ask for me, because, get this, I AM GOING TO THE WHITE HOUSE ON WEDNESDAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

white-house

This afternoon, the PIC sent out an email saying that the first people to respond would get to go to a special reception at the White House on Wednesday and they could bring a guest.  So, I was right at my computer and immediately responded and went on about my day until they called.  I managed to get in time to go!  WOOOOO!  I’m bringing my sister.

So, now I need to figure out:

a) What do I want to ask the President if I get to talk to him?
b) What does one wear to meet the President?

INSANE.  I’m totally insaned out now.

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Friday Evening: It’s Formal Wear off the HOOK!

3:00 -7:00 PM:  I just spent the afternoon stuffing gift bags so I can get into the ball tomorrow night for free.  It was funny being with people who came in from out of town for all the madness.  All the event planners were New Yorkers who had 3 balls in 3 days and they seemed sort of fried.  I had a funny conversation with one of them though.  It went like this:

Me: Did you find the temple you’re trying to go to for services tomorrow?

Her:  Yeah, and guess what?  To get there I have to go through Dupont Circle!  Have you seen the American President? She always got lost in Dupont Circle.

Me: That was always happening on the West Wing too.  So, at least if you get lost tomorrow you can say you had an authentic DC experience.

That Aaron Sorkin really must have had trouble with Dupont.

Another plus of volunteering is that I figured out I could get my friend Angela in too!

After I left

In case anyone out there is wondering, this is the rough plan for the weekend.  I feel like this seems to keep shifting…

7:30 PM:  I hit Filene’s Basement for ball supplies.  You guys, let me tell you, Ashley English style is already seeming to be the way to do the ball.  Now, some people who have been registering their inaugural ball dresses on some website so that they can make sure to wear something original.  Obviously, that is insane.  I mean, seriously, it matters that much?  Also, this is WASHINGTON, DC people.  It’s not like this is a fashionable city.  Anyways, I obviously avoided that madness by not making ball plans till the afternoon before.  When that happens, you have a couple options.

1) Look in your closet and realize all of your formal wear has been worn to a wedding or a prom.  Think about wearing something from a wedding, cause hey, it probably fits and your friend had good taste in bridesmaid dresses.  Dream about wearing your prom dress because it’s pretty and how awesome would it be if it still fits.  Sort of decide these options are nuts and go to Filene’s anyways.

2) Show up at Filene’s like 20 minutes before it’s closing and see what you can do.  In my case, this meant realizing that there are only like 4 racks that still have dresses on them.  But, I pushed through and found an awesome dress that was $158 for $25.  Score.  Then, rush through Filene’s trying to find shoes and accessories.  I found shoes for 40 percent off and everything I needed.  The whole thing (shoes, earrings, dress) was like $50 and I got in all in 20 minutes.  I rock.

Also, this was the inspiration for another great convo.  I’ve loved talking to the people today.

Checkout Lady:  Damn girl, you did good.  Inaugural ball?

Me: Yeah, I just found out I was going today.

Checkout Lady:  It’s formal wear off the hook in here!

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Friday: Let Inauguration Weekend Begin!

I have to admit I’m not sure how much this feature is going to touch on my usual feminist themes, but I thought it would be fun to do a running diary type thing of Inauguration weekend.   Here it goes!

11:30ish AM:  Ever sine I found out the National Council of Women’s Organizations was having an Inaugural Ball, I decided to should try to scam my way into it.  Somehow, I decided scamming my way into balls would be a good source of entertainment.  Tickets to everything are so hard to get that I thought the challenge might be amusing.   In my ideal world, I would somehow also get into the official Obama Youth Ball, but I think that’s a pipe dream.  Anyways, it looked like I wasn’t going to be able to pull this off and then today I got the call that I can go for free!  WOO!  Of course, this means I now need to frantically find a dress and actually shave my legs.  The condition for attending this thing means some volunteering stuffing goody bags this afternoon.

12:30ish PM: Went to pick up lunch.  Au Bon Pain is selling “Yes We Can Cookies.”  I should note here, that the amount of Obama stuff you can buy in DC right now is insane.  You cannot walk a block downtown without hitting a street vendor selling shirts, hats, buttons, key chains, bobbleheads, etc.   Because I am me, I definitely could not resist a hot pink Barack Obama inaugural sweatshirt.  It will make an appearance this weekend, don’t you worry.

1:39 PM:  Given that they have closed off every road in the city it seems and the Metro will be a total disaster, lots of people are planning on sleeping at the office on Monday night  (we’re fairly close the Mall and very close to the White House).  I know there are plans for cupcakes and I was thinking of bringing the West Wing DVD’s.  My boss is staying as well.  In fact, she’s currently making a census of who is coming to what I’m sure will be a very bizarre and very fun sleepover.  This whole thing seems worth mentioning because this is just how insane this whole thing is.  LOTS of DC-ers are actually planning on doing stuff like this.

Saturday

NCWO Ball!

Sunday

See the free concert with Springsteen and like a gagillion other people.  It’s like 20 degrees today, by the way, hopefully this will change by concert time.  If not, I’m totally bringing a sleeping bag.

Monday

Pre-Inauguration Sleepover!

Tuesday

Either volunteering (the Inaugural Committee has failed to give me an assignment yet) or finding a good jumbotron on the mall!

More to come!  And hopefully pictures!

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To Go to Olympics, Athletes Must Prove They are Women!

Today’s New York Times sports page has an article explaining that female athletes must undergo examinations to prove they are women.  This is something I find fascinating and honestly, fairly disturbing.  Here’s why:

1) The article entitled, “A Lab is Set to Test the Gender of Some Female Athletes,” speaks volumes about how we think of sex and gender.  In Women’s Studies 101, students usually learn that sex is the term used to describe biological differences between men and women and gender is used to describe the social constructions of gender; how we expect men and women to behave.  It’s a pretty subtle difference and the article uses the terms incorrectly.  It explains that many of the tests for female athletes focus on more biological diffences, such as the presence of X and Y chromosomes.   I think this is interesting because it shows how gender and sex are so often collapsed into one term, revealing that it really is different to move beyond thinking of men and women as naturally occuring opposites.  This is all very fem theory, I know.  So, I’m moving on now.

2) It is horrifying to me that only FEMALE athletes are forced to undergo tests to prove they are women.  By requiring tests only for women, it is as though the Olympics are saying that they cannot believe that women’s exceptional athletic triumphs could be the result of hard training and preparation.  It’s like saying only a man could do that well, so step on up ladies and prove you are a woman.  It also sends the message that there is no need to worry that women would pose as men because certainly a woman could never defeat men as a woman.  This ignores much we know about women having advantages in terms of flexibility and endurance.

3) These tests are also wildly objectifying, reducing female athletes to their bodies.  The article explains that women used to have to prove they were women by walking around naked in front of doctors.  Now, they have to submit to chromosome tests, but is that really much better?  Aren’t they still saying that women are always going to be limited or pigeonholed based on sex characteristics?

4) The article also raises some interesting epistemological questions about how we know and understand gender.  Testing female athletes by examining their bodies and their chromosomes suggests we can only know that people are men and women by considering their gentialia, secondary sex characteristics, and genetics.  I’m reading a really intellectually engaging book right now by Julia Serano that talks a lot about her experiences as a transwoman and really questions how much those characteristics actually do define gender.  So, can we really determine sex and gender just by looking at bodies?  I’m not sure of the answer, but I think it is a fascinating question.  Towards the end of the article the Times briefly gets into this issue which makes me happy.

5) Not to be too academic about this whole issue of testing Olympic athletes, but at the end of the day, why do we care so much about policing athletes’ sex and gender?  Is it really that being male is seen as the equivalent of being a performance-enhancing drug?  If so, why isn’t being female ever seen as an advantage?  Why is it we insist on seeing gender as strictly either/or?  In my mind, the whole issue points to the fact that society has a lot at stake in preserving the idea that men are better, faster, stronger, and the idea that women will never be able to seen as equals on the track, in the pool, or on the field.  Certainly makes me think that female athletes still have a ways to go in order to get some respect.

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A Moment of Appreciation: My Dude Friends

When I started this blog, I sent the link to all of my good friends, including all of my good friends from college, who are mostly dudes.  I have to admit I was a bit self-conscious when I told them all about my blog because I knew I’d be writing a lot about feminist stuff which I thought they either might not get or might think is crazy.  But, I’m really happy to report that, as always, my dude friends have been excellent.  I also just got an excellent email from one of my long-lost dude friends, that made me feel warm and happy inside.  So, I just wanted to take a moment to say how much I love the feminist boys in my life.  Here is why they rock:

1) Many of them have read my blog and either written me or written comments showing that they really want to learn more about some of this stuff.  It’s really awesome to have dudes around who are actively engaged in trying to learn more about this feminist thing that I spend so much of my time thinking about and doing.  I also don’t see most of my dude friends anymore as they all live in different cities, but it is great to have the support from afar!

2) My dude friends always just treated me like one of the guys and I have to say, I think that is actually part of why I think feminism is important.  By getting to play with both the boys and the girls in college, I really gained a strong appreciation for being able to do whatever I wanted regardless of my gender most of the time.  It wasn’t that I had to act like a dude to be with the dudes or act like a girl to hang with the girls.  I just got to be me and go where the fun was and then feel really loved by my friends.  Interestingly, I also learned that the dudes could be just as “girly” as the girls given that we also spent tons of time gossiping and talking about people’s relationships and stuff.  In my ideal world, that’s how it would be.  (Ok, it wasn’t as perfect as I make it sound here, but it was pretty damn close).

3) Whenever I get to visit my dude friends (and some close female friends), it always feels like visiting family because I know them so well.  I love that!

4) I spent a huge majority of time lately around female feminists.  I work with them, I go to school with them, and I am mostly friends with them.  So, it’s always great to have the dude friend outside perspective.  I like that they ask me questions and keep me on my toes.

5) I’m pretty sure “See here’s the thing….” is a line I picked up from my dude friends when we used to argue about stupid things like whether or not you could survive on nothing but pizza and beer (let’s not forget, these are mostly my college friends).

Anyways, just wanted to say thanks to all the boys for all the fun over the years and for still supporting me even if that means reading and commenting on my feminist blog.  All feminists should be so lucky to have such a great group of dude friends who are interested in learning more about this stuff and who are really great times to be around!

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